MAY 29, 1946
NEW YORK, Tuesday—In our anxiety over the railroad strike, very few people seemed to connect it with the coal strike, and yet the two go hand in hand. In many ways, John L. Lewis has been responsible for the whole situation because of his arrogant attitude as regards the public interest. I do not think he should be allowed to continue, and I think that any machinery now set up will operate for the railroad workers and their leaders but not where he is concerned.
The public should know the facts about the mining industry. There is no question that some improvements have been made by the operators, but many more need to be made. Some mines cannot be operated profitably for both the management and the workers. This is a hazardous industry and, in spite of new safety devices, it is still one of the industries in which major disasters occur.
The passage of the Social Security Act meant a great deal in alleviating the hardships which used to face families at the time of such disasters. I can well remember a certain woman in West Virginia with ten or twelve children whose husband, a foreman, died in a mine trying to rescue other men trapped there after an accident. Her friends told me that, in the old days, many of the children would have had to go to work long before they should have left school, but the Social Security Act gave her a lift. It enabled her to keep her children in school, in many ways she was better off financially than when her husband was living, and she received benefits for her children until they were 18.
But this is a government security. The mining industry itself has done very little for the health and welfare of its workers and their families.
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Because Mr. Lewis does not command the confidence of a great many people, there is a feeling that whatever health and welfare fund is agreed upon should, in the interests of the workers as well as of the operators, be administered under some supervision. But this fact has nothing whatsoever to do with the righteousness of the demand for such a fund. A health and welfare fund, and safety in the mines, are essential in this industry.
The size of contributions to the fund and the way it should be administered are points for negotiation.
The miners should go back to work, because coal is needed in the world, but it should also be obligatory that the negotiations go on and that results develop which cover the real causes of complaint.
The public has been very complacent about labor's difficulties and, wherever organized labor was concerned, they have taken it for granted that there was strength enough in the organization to fight its own battles. This is not true. The public has no right to assume that it will benefit from the accomplishments of organized labor without taking the trouble to see that organized labor has a fair deal.